Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation, MSc

Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation, MSc


This programme is currently paused to allow for revision. We anticipate a relaunch in 2025, with first intake in September 2026.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study

With the increasing variety and scale of human activities that affect marine environments it is vital that we have scientists who are able to take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding, monitoring and regulating impacts on marine ecosystems and the natural capital and services they provide.

Run in collaboration with key conservation, fishery and management bodies, this MSc programme will provide you with an understanding of the issues that are central to marine ecology, resource use and conservation, and will develop practical skills and analytical ability that you can apply to real-world situations. You will learn from renowned researchers and leading practitioners, and will gain deep insight into the structure and functioning of a wide range of marine ecosystems.

The programme will suit individuals looking to make a difference in the stewardship of marine natural capital, through employment in conservation, fishery or environmental organisations, environmental consultancies, government agencies, or progress to PhD research. It also provides an opportunity for professionals who are keen to refocus their knowledge and skills on applied marine ecology and conservation.

What You'll Study

The programme comprises a taught phase over two 12-week terms, in which you will take eight courses, and a research phase, in which you will complete a 12-week research project. The taught courses will develop advanced marine ecological knowledge and a sound understanding of key issues, as well as helping you to acquire a spectrum of essential skills. An ability to engage effectively with stakeholders is a key requirement for a modern marine ecological professional, so a variety of activities are incorporated to develop proficiency in this area.

The research project, often conducted in collaboration with external partners, is chosen from a wide range of available topics and allows you to put your knowledge and skills into practice in a detailed investigation. Overall, the programme aims to build the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to adopt a professional role in applied marine ecology and conservation.

Stage 1

Compulsory Courses

Stage 1 compulsory courses include:

  • BI5013 - Ecological and Environmental Dara Analysis Using R
  • ZO5322 - Contemporary Methods for Population Modelling
Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Marine Ecosystem Management: Setting the Scene (ZO5019)

15 Credit Points

This course introduces the characteristics of the marine environment that are relevant to managing human activities in relation to conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable exploitation of marine resources. The course considers the ecosystem roles of different biological groups, with a particular focus on the key role of fishes. There is an introduction to the policies, management approaches and organisations involved in the development of marine ecosystem-based management, with a focus on the north-east Atlantic Ocean and particularly the North Sea. Guest speakers from key organisations provide up-to-date perspectives on topical issues. Being placed at the start of PGT marine programmes, this course provides a foundation of knowledge for concepts and issues that are explored in more depth in subsequent courses.

Optional Courses

Plus one of the following courses:

  • BI5314 - Advanced Ecological Statistics using R
  • EK5314 - Ecology, Conservation and Society
Stage 2

Compulsory Courses

Stage 2 compulsory courses include:

  • ZO5521- Marine Conservation Management
  • EK5813- Molecular Ecology and Conservation
  • ZO5810- Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture
Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Lectures and structured workshops develop your knowledge of the principles and practice of geographic information systems, and familiarise you with ArcGIS software, enhancing your employability.

An individual investigation allows you to explore a specific application that you are interested in and demonstrate your proficiency with the software and your command of the conceptual underpinnings.

A flexible teaching and learning environment allows for individualised learning and enrichment for students with existing skills in GIS.

Stage 3

The final phase of the course involves carrying out a research project on a choice of marine conservation issues in the UK or overseas. Projects are often carried out in association with an external partner organisation.

Compulsory Courses

Stage 3 consists for the following compulsory course:

  • ZO5907 - Research Project in Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation

Assessment: By a combination of assignments as prescribed for each course, and a dissertation covering the research project. MSc and Diploma candidates are usually required to attend an oral examination. Only candidates who complete at an appropriate standard will be allowed to progress to the final stage leading to an MSc degree.

We will endeavour to make all course options available. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £27,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
UK £12,200
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Fee Information

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our Tuition Fees page.


Self-funded international students enrolling on postgraduate taught (PGT) programmes will receive one of our Aberdeen Global Scholarships, ranging from £3,000 to £8,000, depending on your domicile country. Learn more about the Aberdeen Global Scholarships here.

To see our full range of scholarships, visit our Funding Database.

How You'll Study

Our programme incorporates a wide range of learning formats, including talks from invited experts; individual and group research; and field, laboratory and computer exercises, traditional lectures and seminars.

The programme provides opportunities to engage with staff from the Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government, Nature Scotland and JNCC, as well as professionals from NGOs and the private sector, representing environmental consulting firms, for example. The programme also incorporates non-curricular workshops on improving employability, such as CV writing.

As a major hub of maritime activity, Aberdeen is well situated for providing learning opportunities and experience* , including:

  • Outdoor field work at the University’s field station and research sites
  • Tours of marine industry facilities, which may include harbours, aquaculture sites, a renewable energy control centre, and fish markets
  • Contact with companies and representative bodies of industries such as renewable energy, oil and gas, and fisheries
  • The opportunity to join a very active students’ Marine Society
  • Informal marine wildlife watching
  • Extra-curricular opportunities to join a survey on one of the Scottish Government’s research vessels (subject to availability and security clearance)
  • Safety at Sea certification (a requirement for working on research vessels: at student’s own cost)

*please note that some of these opportunities may incur an additional cost and are subject to availability.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops

Assessment Methods

The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment: there are no exams. The degree programme is assessed using a range of formats, including written reports, oral presentations, posters, online tests, open book assessments, literature reviews, blogs, marine conservation consultation response, participation in stakeholder workshop, project plan, and the research project report.

Why Study Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation?

In recent years, there has been a rapid expansion of initiatives to regulate human activities in the marine environment, as governments have responded to public pressure and international drivers for improved management of our seas and oceans, yet significant challenges remain. Moving forward, it is vital that there are highly trained professionals in applied marine ecology and conservation to ensure that issues are properly understood and management proposals are well conceived.

By studying Applied Marine Ecology and Conservation at the University of Aberdeen, you will gain a deep understanding of marine ecosystems, resources and biodiversity, the effects of human activities on them, and how management measures can be developed, as well as a suite of cutting-edge skills to put theory into practice.

The University of Aberdeen is particularly well placed to deliver this programme because:         

  • Courses are delivered by internationally renowned academics, government scientists, teaching fellows and marine resource managers.  
  • Aberdeen is the centre of a variety of marine activities and the programme offers interaction with a range of industries, including aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and renewable energy.  
  • You will develop skills such as statistical analysis, mathematical modelling and geographical information systems, making you more attractive to prospective employers.       
  • You will gain essential research skills, including project planning, literature reviewing, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and different modes of communicating research to a variety of audiences, which will be beneficial to your future career.      
  • You will have guest lectures from statutory nature conservation bodies, environmental NGOs, industry, and government.
  • You will have the opportunity to engage with staff from the Scottish Government’s Marine Directorate (for marine science, policy and compliance), and collaborate with them for research projects.       
  • Aberdeen is within easy reach of a diversity of marine environments, habitats and species – bottlenose dolphins are one of the more spectacular species regularly seen from the Aberdeen shoreline. 

What Our Students Say

Jack Mills

Jack Mills

Jack Mills

Lecturers and guest speakers are always helpful and ready to answer questions about coursework and materials covered in lectures and our research. Each unit offers something new, and helped to develop appropriate skills for our future career.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

Minimum entry requirement for this programme is a degree in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant discipline at 2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours level, or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth. Candidates with at least a 2:1 or equivalent in other disciplines may be considered if they can demonstrate relevant experience and motivation.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Aberdeen Global Scholarship

Eligible self-funded postgraduate taught (PGT) students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Explore our Global Scholarships, including eligibility details, on our dedicated page.

Aberdeen Global Scholarships


The programme will prepare you for employment with the range of organisations involved in marine conservation, environmental assessment, and resource management, such as statutory nature conservation bodies, other government agencies involved in marine science and management, environmental consultancies, and non-governmental organisations, by aligning training in skills and expertise with employer’s needs, and helping you to establish a network of professional contacts.

The research skills you will acquire will provide a strong foundation for further training in academic research.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has published an analysis of the “most wanted” postgraduate and professional skills in the ecological and environmental sector. Our MSc programme has been specifically designed to provide you with many of these sought after skills so that you are highly competitive in whatever career you choose to follow.

In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills, the activities within our programme are designed to provide you with ample opportunity to develop widely applicable skills valued by employers, including communication in a variety of modes, critical thinking, problem-solving, team work, numeracy, data management, modelling, time management, and interdisciplinarity.

Potential Careers

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Marine Conservation Adviser
  • Fishery Scientist
  • Marine Policy Officer
  • Postgraduate Researcher

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Marine Conservation Adviser
  • Marine Policy Officer
  • Postgraduate Researcher

Industry Links

Our marine scientists collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world. Research projects are often hosted by partner organisations and therefore focus on issues of real-world relevance. Partners include:

  • International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
  • Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland
  • Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust
  • South Atlantic Research Institute
  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Research Impact

Professor Paul Thompson and his team have been instrumental in mitigating the impacts of offshore installations on marine mammals in EU protected areas.

Watch video

Image for useful fact about this Subject

REF 2021

We are ranked in the top quartile for Research Power in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences in the latest Research Excellence Framework

Nature on our Doorstep

Current and former students tell us why they choose to study biological and environmental sciences at Aberdeen

What our Alumni Say

Hannah Webster

Hannah Webster

Hannah Webster

Graduated 2018

One of the most interesting aspects of the marine conservation course to me was the opportunity to talk to and learn from the variety of guest speakers who came to lecture us. This alongside the practicals at the Marine Scotland Science lab allowed us to gain insight into the numerous fields within marine conservation. I also enjoyed the time I got to spend at the lighthouse field station in Cromarty.

Samantha Finnegan

Samantha Finnegan

Samantha Finnegan

Graduated 2019

My most memorable memories are with my course mates who became fast friends I still keep in contact with. I enjoyed meeting people from different parts of the world and the opportunities the courses gave to apply what we learned in the classroom in a real world situation.

Our Experts

This programme will be delivered by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of internationally renowned experts in marine ecology and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Other Experts
Professor Paul Thompson
Professor Beth Scott
Professor Sam Martin
Professor Stuart Piertney
Programme Coordinator
Dr Philip Smith

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.


The University of Aberdeen has the range of facilities to support academic study and scientific research that you would expect in a large modern university, and in addition has particular facilities and features that are especially well suited to a programme in applied marine ecology and conservation. Three examples are listed below.

Image for Lighthouse Field Station
Lighthouse Field Station

Lighthouse Field Station

The Lighthouse Field Station is located in Cromarty, at the tip of the Black Isle. It has the dual aim of undertaking and supporting research and integrating this work into teaching and outreach activities.

Find out more
Image for Zoology Museum
Zoology Museum

Zoology Museum

The museum’s displays are worldwide in scope, from protozoa to the great whales, including taxidermy, skeletal material, study skins, fluid-preserved specimens and models.

Image for Sir Duncan Rice Library
Sir Duncan Rice Library

Sir Duncan Rice Library

The University’s award winning Sir Duncan Rice Library is listed in the “Top 20 spellbinding University libraries in the World”. It contains over a million volumes, more than 300,000 e-books and 21,000 journals.

Find out more

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX